- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

RICHMOND Virginia's attorney general yesterday asked the state Supreme Court to review a Salem judge's dismissal of a legislative-redistricting plan, arguing that the judge mishandled the case.

The justices did not immediately say whether they will hear the appeal. Both sides in the case hope the justices will schedule arguments next month before the court's summer recess.

Deputy Attorney General Frank Ferguson argued that Salem Circuit Judge Richard Pattisall's decision to throw out the redistricting plan and order new elections should be overturned because the plaintiffs did not live in the affected districts.

Of eight Senate districts Judge Pattisall found to be unconstitutional, three lack resident plaintiffs. Four of the 14 unconstitutional House districts have no resident plaintiffs.

"Certainly, the plaintiffs have to prove standing before they can even be in court," Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, said after the brief hearing. "That's basic requirements of the law. The judge ought to have required standing in this case."

Mr. Kilgore's office also argued that Judge Pattisall, a former Democratic Party activist, was not impartial and that he lacked the authority to order the General Assembly to draw new districts.

State Sen. Henry Marsh, a Richmond Democrat who is one of the plaintiffs who challenged the Republican-drawn districts, said he believed standing was proved. He said Republicans were "nitpicking" over legal technicalities to get their appeal heard by the high court.

Mr. Marsh said it was unusual and vicious to accuse the judge of bias.

"I'm surprised by the vigor with which [the Attorney Generals Office] attacked the judge," Mr. Marsh said. "It doesn't lend itself to appreciation for the political system for people to attack judges the way they do."

The attorney general said the plaintiffs went to extreme lengths to have the redistricting case heard in Judge Pattisall's court in Salem even though none of the contested districts included Salem.

Judge Pattisall was chairman of the Roanoke County Democratic Party in the late 1960s and lost a race for the state Senate as a Democrat in 1971.

Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, also was named as a defendant in the appeal, but his office has hired its own counsel, Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan, and was not represented at the Supreme Court hearing.

Mr. Warner hired the attorney after Mr. Kilgore's office filed the appeal without consulting him. Mr. Kilgore said at the time he considered Mr. Warner an "adverse party" to the appeal and suggested Mr. Warner retain his own counsel.

"My hope is that this case can be appealed in an expedited fashion and we can reach a final judgment as soon as possible so we can remove this cloud that's hanging over our whole process," Mr. Warner said yesterday.

Judge Pattisall ruled in March that the new voting districts drawn were unconstitutional because they packed too many black voters into a few districts to protect white Republicans in neighboring districts.

Republicans greatly widened their majority in the General Assembly in last fall's House of Delegates elections under the redrawn districts. Judge Pattisall ordered that new elections be held with newly drawn districts this fall.

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